If you happen to walk past the izakaya Kadoya in the Mukojima district of northeastern Tokyo, you’ll notice a sign that reads “Japanese Language Only.” The owner of the establishment caused a bit of a social media storm last month when he tweeted about a “white couple” that came into his store.  

‘Make an Effort to Speak Japanese in Japan’

“When I told them, ‘I can’t serve you if you don’t understand Japanese,’ they looked dumbfounded and asked me in English, ‘No English menu?’ So, I answered them in Japanese, ‘No.’ This is Japan. I’ll speak English when I go to an English-speaking country. Make an effort to speak Japanese in Japan. If you can’t, bring an interpreter,” he tweeted. 

Reaction to the tweet, which has garnered more than 19 million views, has been mixed. Some agree with his sentiment, stating that this is Japan, so people should attempt to speak the language. Others, however, feel his comments were unnecessarily rude and over the top. Speaking to the Money Post website earlier this week, the Kadoya proprietor defended his outburst. 

Reasons for the ‘Japanese Language Only’ Sign

“I don’t want to be misunderstood,” he said. “Our restaurant doesn’t refuse all foreigners. Those who can communicate in Japanese can come. However, we have a system where customers write their orders on paper, so it’s difficult for people who don’t understand the language or characters to order. That’s why we put up a sign saying, ‘Japanese Language Only.’ If I’d written ‘Japanese only,’ that would be discriminatory, and I don’t want that. It’s a desperate measure to avoid unnecessary trouble.”

The izakaya owner, who goes by the name Kuro Kadoya on X, told Money Post that he’s able to speak some English, having lived in Europe for three years, working as a chef. He, therefore, can communicate to a certain extent, but finds it difficult to explain about certain dishes. Another reason for his Japanese language only policy is money. According to the Kadoya proprietor, foreigners don’t spend as much as Japanese customers and generally stay longer in the store.

He has no intention of changing his policy. And for anyone who complains about it, he says, there will be no retort, just a frosty look. 

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